It is one of the most commonly enquired comparisons in the field of creative applications, between two of the most frequently used software platforms, especially for tasks linked to 3D design. Which truly is the best 3D modeling software, is it Blender, or is it, Maya?
Blender is the better option for beginners to the concepts introduced in 3D modeling due to its open-source availability and the sheer number of tasks that can be performed with the software. Maya is the better choice for top industry projects that focus on game design and animation in particular.
There are many similarities between the two 3D applications that make them comparable, but also many differences in terms of their approaches to completing certain workloads and even the very means by which they are distributed and used by the global community.
Are Maya And Blender The Same And If Not What Are The Differences?
So why even make the comparison between Blender and Maya in the first place? Both applications garner a reputation as a 3D modeling software, and both applications can be used to develop 3D animations to an almost PIXAR like standard. But it goes far beyond this, both in terms of what makes them so alike and what makes them so different.
What Are The Similarities Of Blender And Maya?
First, we need to take a look at the similarities of our two competitors, and in what situations as an artist do both of these become a viable option.
- Both applications use a workspace system to store the hundreds of tools that these applications have on offer. The general structure of the default workspace is very similar, with the 3D viewport in full view and access to the timeline and scene properties in similar locations.
- Primarily these are both used for the purpose of creating 3D models for a variety of different use cases. Examples of this include modeling for video games, animations, concept art and 3D printing.
- Blender and Maya both have a full animation and rigging toolset making them perfect for 3D animated projects and potential in CGI.
- For Sculpting each application is fully capable of being used to create highly detailed models. Both use brushes to sculpt the base mesh in various ways.
- Each 3D app follows the primary workflow of 3D modeling, which is to first model the objects of the scene, apply materials and textures to each object, assign the appropriate lighting conditions, and render an image or animation of the scene.
- Both have a 3D viewport system is that is most effective when using a three button mouse but also allow for other methods of navigation using a touchpad or via hotkeys.
- Maya and Blender are both compatible with many other applications thanks to there ability to import and export a variety of file formats.
- The ability to use many file formats makes both applications good choices for creating objects designed for 3D printing.
What Are The Differences Between Blender And Maya?
For every similarity between Blender and Maya, there is at least one key difference. These differences can range from methods of distribution to specific toolsets available in the software. To make this easiest to read, rather than use a bullet point list, we have a table below to divide up the difference between them.
|License||Open Source||Subscription License|
|Node System||Node Tree Editor||Node Graph|
Which Is The Harder Software To Learn, Maya Or Blender?
Ask this question just a few years ago, and the answer would have been a simple one, with Blender garnering a reputation for having a steep initial learning curve.
Before Blender version 2.8 was released, the open-source application was often considered too daunting for many potential artists to learn because its UI was considered unintuitive and confusing.
In general locating tools would prove to be a challenge in itself with many of the functions available in Blender often hidden from the view of the user.
By contrast, Maya has always had a more in-your-face approach and its UI has seen little change over the years. Many of its tools and workspaces are very easy to identify and locate in the top third of the UI, with the rest of the screen real estate focused on the scene itself and actually working on your project.
Not much has changed for Maya, but for Blender, things have changed for the better. A workspace system has been introduced allowing the user to apply the correct layout to their Blender project for each task that they plan to do, while still having the power to fully these layouts by controlling the size of the individual panels, the number of panels in the UI and the editors being used.
Both are a challenge to learn as they are both 3D applications with 100’s of tools and incredible potential for what you can create. If you have never learned how to create 3D models before then neither is the best choice in terms of sheer ease of use.
And yet both remain viable options due in large part thanks to the incredible library of learning material and resources that you can find on the web.
For both applications, you can find online manuals, blog articles, youtube videos, and online courses that will all help to improve your skill base with the application that you choose.
Who Wins When It Comes To Learning Material?
While both are excellent here, and both have more learning resources than most other creative applications, Blender comes out on top due in part to its incredible documentation will the Blender manual website, and the preposterously large number of youtube tutorials, with more added literally on a daily basis.
The latter of which is in large part thanks to the fact that Blender is free software that is accessible to a much larger audience, while Maya is restricted to those either with an educational license or who can afford the assigned subscription fees.
So Which One Is Easier?
From our experience, the answer is dependent on the amount of time spent on the software. I asked a family member to try both applications since they were interested in 3D modeling and found that Maya was easier to learn the basics for. In other words, it was easier in the first hour.
But the more time that was spent on the platforms, the easier it became to use Blender, while Maya actually presented a few challenges that left them confused. One of which was the difficulty in setting up the render engines in Maya, which was very simple in Blender.
Do Professionals Use Blender?
If you heard of Maya then you will likely be aware that it is considered by many to be an industry standard for 3D modeling software.
Now the term itself is becoming more redundant as companies begin to use more in-house software and other options are also made available, but it effectively describes a standard-bearer for what something should be in its target field and is the predominant choice for those working at the highest level.
Over the years many aspiring artists would always first look at how they could gain access to Maya because job postings would specifically state that you needed experience with Maya to land a role, and this is still true today.
The ability to use Maya is a core skill for artists in industries such as game design and 3D animation, and so other applications like Blender would often not be even considered because it’s not just the skillset that companies are after, but knowledge in the specific tools used in that company.
So does this mean that professional artists have disregarded Blender completely? Not at all, in fact, Blender is becoming a much more viable alternative for artists working in smaller companies who are either on tighter budgets or are not committed to using Maya in their production pipeline.
It is also the primary choice for professional freelancers who provide their services as independent contracts for small start-up projects, which has become a common practice over the past few years.
The fact that more people have access to Blender compared to Maya means that there has been a natural shift in the number of artists using the software for commercial purposes, and that trend looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.
What Software Is Used In Pixar Or Hollywood?
When you are talking about high-quality 3D animations, then your attention turns to companies such as Pixar and Disney, which both have a phenomenal track record of outstanding animated films and television shows.
What software do these companies actually use to create the animations and is this software comparable to something like Blender? Or is it Blender or maybe Maya that a company like Disney uses in their production process?
In the case of Pixar, the animation giant has its own in-house software for designing, rendering, and animating for all of its multi-million dollar productions.
For the purpose of rendering animations, PIXAR uses Renderman as the final step in their animation production and it has been built from the ground up to produce world-class content as seamlessly as possible.
What about the actual design of the character models? Well for both Pixar and Maya the primary choice for this stage is still Autodesk Maya. The software can be used for both the design of the models as well as the setup of the actual animations.
The same applies to Disney animation studios, which use a combination of their own software such as Hyperion for rendering, and 3D party modeling applications like Maya for their projects.
All that being said, it’s not as if Blender is worse off because of it. In 2013 Pixar employee Tony DeRose went on record to praise the capabilities of the open-source alternative and has even made the claim that Blender will form the basis for the next Pixar-like studio.
Are There Alternatives To Blender And Maya?
There are a lot of alternatives to both Blender and Maya for 3D-related tasks and beyond. These options vary greatly and it is impressive to see just how many new programs have been developed and released in the past five years alone.
There are direct competitors to Blender and Maya and then there are indirect ones that focus on specific workflows. If you are looking for an alternative to the workflow of creating 3D models, scenes and animations then tow alternatives are 3Ds Max and Cinema 4D.
Cinema 4D, in particular, is a great tool for creating visual effects and while it has not received as much attention in recent years 3Ds Max remains an excellent tool for 3D modeling.
Blender has its own video sequence editor but in this one category, there are many other options that we recommend above it. Example applications that you should check out for video editing include, but are not limited to, Final Cut Pro, Davinci Resolve, Camtasia, and Adobe Premiere Pro.
For creating visual effects for film good options include the traditional choice that is adobe after effects, the fusion editor within DaVinci Resolve, and Houdini.
Houdini is our alternative alternative, allowing you to create 3D models and scenes like in Blender and create some stunning visual effects, but has the highest learning curve of the lot in our opinion.
If however, you are looking into the area of 3D printing or design for manufacturing, then CAD-based software is the better choice.
Options for Computer-Aided Design include AutoCAD, Fusion 360, and SketchUp. There are many more options here and their more focused toolsets actually make them great choices for beginners to 3D modeling as a general concept.
What Are The Benefits Of Using Blender Compared To Professional Software?
Perhaps the key benefit to using Blender 3D is its accessibility. Blender is known as an open-source program that falls under the GNU General Public License V2. This means that Blender must be freely available for download by anyone, anywhere, and the software can be used freely for almost any means.
For the artist, this means that they use Blender for both personal and professional projects. You can make a living by selling assets that you build in Blender or use the software to create 3D logos for aspiring start-ups.
You can also use Python script to create and sell your own addons to help improve the Blender experience for others, and can even edit the source code to change Blender however you see fit.
The only thing that the license does not permit is for Blender, or any software created using Blender as the base to be sold for financial gain. As such Blender is protected from being purchased by large companies and then being sold for a fee or subscriptions, and will always be free forever.
In addition to the licensing flexibility, and the fact that Blender is free to download and use to its full extent, it is also flexible in the many tasks that it can perform.
In this area, it surpasses Maya and almost all other comparable applications. Blender is the only software that we are aware of that doubles up as both a video editor, compositor, VFX, and 3D modeling and animation suite. And that’s only half of what it can do.
This versatility means that Blender presents a higher range of employment opportunities as more and more company start-ups seek artists that use the Blender Software.
The Conclusion Of Which Is Better?
Even if we give you a straight answer, it is just our opinion, and the only true way to decide is to try both out for yourself. However, if we are weighing the pros and cons of both, then we simply cannot look past the fact that Blender is so competitive with Maya in 3D modeling and animation despite the fact that is free software maintained and developed by a nonprofit organization in the Blender foundation.
Thanks For Reading The Article
We appreciate you taking the time to read through the article and we hope that you found the information you were looking for. Below we have compiled a list of additional topics that you may be interested in reading.
- Is Blender A Good Choice For Beginners
- Can You Use Blender For Animation
- Why Is Blender 3D Considered Difficult To Learn
- How Did Blender 3D Get Its Name
- Learn Tools Faster With The Help Of Blender Shortcuts
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